Monday, 27 March 2017

Hortus Conclusus : A Serious Place

Hortus Conclusus : Enclosed Garden
Often translated as meaning “a serious place”
To construct a contemplative room, a garden within a garden.
Pavilion as both a monumental physical structure and as a site of emotional encounter.





With a refined selection of materials he has created a contemplative space that evokes the spiritual dimension of our physical environment, in so doing he is successfully emphasising the role the senses and emotions play in our experience of architecture. (Zumthor 2011: 15)

Enclosed all round and open to the sky.
A garden in an architectural setting.
“ Sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time.” (Zumthor 2011: 15)

Every plant name listed here evokes a distinct image; with each of them I associate specific lighting, smells and sounds, many kinds of rest, and a deep awareness of the earth and its flora.

A garden is the most intimate landscape ensemble I know of. In it we cultivate the plants we need. A garden requires care and protection. And so we encircle it, we defend it and fend for it. We give it shelter. The garden turns into a place.

There is something else that strikes me in this image of a garden fenced off within the larger landscape around it: something small has found sanctuary within something big.
(Zumthor 2011: 15)


Illustration of “Orchard” from Bible of Wenceslaus IV,Vienna, Austrian National Library

Depicts in the manner of an illuminated manuscript, the husbandry and community of the medieval workforce in the secure and sheltered space of a walled garden. This pastoral craft/gathering is evocative of Zumthor’s Hortus Concluses.

Working with ones hands, with the earth in sheltered spaces of a pastoral community.

Zumthor underscores this pastoral setting when he places a pavilion at the centre of the garden; he talks of future meeting there, of looking forward “to the natural energy and beauty of the tableau vivant of grasses, flowers and shrubs. I am looking forward to the colours and shapes, the smell of the soil, the movement of the leaves.” (Zumthor 2011: 15)

The Vintner’s Luck, Elizabeth Knox.
Tasting the soil in the wine, the soil and the wine are of the same substance, from the same locality; they are bonded together by the landscape.

Gardens Are Like Wells: Alexander Kluge
Inside every person (however serious or playful) lies an “enclosed garden”

Monasteries in medieval Europe were wells in which the clear waters of antiquity mingled with the dark waters of faith. At the centre of these monasteries was a garden, the most important part of which was enclosed. It was here that the most beautiful plants and medicinal herbs were concentrated. (Kluge 2011: 19)

Interestingly Kluge notes that these gardens were not everyday places, they were “timeless” because they were not subject to the general daily rituals of monastic life. These gardens were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, but exposed perhaps to other texts, Homer, Ovid or the Gnostics. This relationship of literature finding a place of contemplation in the enclosed garden speaks perhaps of an “innerness”, an ability to unite mind and eye in the confusing realities of our age.

Civilisation and societies need ground that is uncultivated, gaps that are not subject to the principle of unity, something that is sufficient unto itself, which we do not consume: a sacrifice. Cities need spaces of piety. (Kluge 2011: 21)

“We need places in which we can engage in acts of mourning” Richard Sennett
(Sociologist)



Gardens of Information: DCPT (Development Company for Television Programmes)


Using the emblem of the Hortus Conclusus/The Enclosed Garden to stand for the relationship between the barren wastes on the one hand, and the happy isle on the other.

“To rescue facts from human indifference”

“To make gardens out of raw material and the bare bones of information.”

“A precursor of individualism, but has unmistakable traits in a way individualism never can.” (Kluge 2011: 21)


Spatial Practices for the Next Millennium.

Forming relationships not through superstructures, concepts or societies, but through inclusive structures/practices and localities. The Hortus Conclusus could stand for this type of concentration of identity (an inquiry, a person and a practice) within an intimate setting or situation.